Unprecedented waves of forest fires are remaking landscapes, politics, and communities globally. For many, these fires stress that the politics of the climate crisis are no longer the concern of a few, but urgent questions for all. But what precisely are the connections between climate and fires, and can we disentangle those connections from other causes? How do these fires push us to reconsider conventional ideas about nature, society, and power? This roundtable brings together scholars of Lebanon, Palestine, North Africa, and global arid lands, to reflect on the local and transnational ramifications of forest fires, burning practices, property regimes, and techniques of environmental control in the context of the climate crisis.
Zena Agha is a Palestinian-Iraqi writer from London. She is a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute and previously served as the US Policy Fellow for al-Shabaka; the Palestinian Policy Network based in New York. Her areas of expertise include climate change and Palestinian adaptive capabilities, British and Zionist colonial cartography, satellite imagery over Palestine-Israel, and Israeli spatial practices. Zena's writing has appeared in several international publications including The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The Nation, The Independent, and Foreign Affairs and her media credits include the BBC World Service, Voice of America, and BBC Arabic. Zena is the recipient of numerous fellowships including the Library Innovation Lab at the Harvard Law School and the Asian American Writer’s Workshop. She was awarded the Kennedy Scholarship to study at Harvard University, completing her Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies.
Diana K. Davis, a geographer and veterinarian, is Professor of Geography and History at the University of California, Davis. Her most recent book is The Arid Lands: History, Power, Knowledge (The MIT Press, 2016). Her first book, Resurrecting the Granary of Rome: Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North Africa (Ohio University Press, 2007), was awarded three book prizes in geography and history and translated into French. Her other works include the co-edited volume Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa (Ohio University Press, 2011) and over 40 articles and chapters. She has conducted fieldwork with Afghan nomads near Quetta and Moroccan nomads south of Ouarzazate, and held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the SSRC, the EPA, and the ACLS.
Salma Nashabe Talhouk is a Professor of Landscape Horticulture in the Department of Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management (LDEM), in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS), at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Lebanon. Her focus is on community stewardship of natural resources, digital technology and nature conservation, and cultural ecosystem services. She has published over fifty peer-reviewed articles, supervised / co-supervised seventy graduate students, taught fifteen different courses, and produced more than thirty short documentaries on local green initiatives in Lebanon. Talhouk is the founder of the AUB Nature Conservation Center; she served as LDEM chairperson, and as FAFS Associate Dean. Currently, Talhouk is founder and Chair of the AUBotanic, she is a member of Ecosystem Services Partnership steering committee, and she is leading the development of Daskara, a nature and culture phone application. Talhouk wrote a children's Arabic alphabet nature book and translated Dr. Seuss’s Lorax into Arabic and she produced a book on the trees of Lebanon.
Gabi Kirk (moderator) is a PhD Candidate in Geography with a Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research at the University of California, Davis. Working between political ecology, feminist geography, and geographies of colonialism, her dissertation project examines how Palestinian farmers and sustainable development organizations in the northern West Bank use agro-ecology in projects of identity formation and struggles for sovereignty. She also has a project on the critical history of agricultural science which looks at transnational circuits of agricultural and infrastructural expertise between California and Palestine from the 19th century onward. She has a personal and intellectual interest in interrogating Zionist claims to “Jewish indigeneity” through environmentalism. She has published academic and popular pieces in Journal of Political Ecology, Society and Space, Jewish Currents, and PROTOCOLS.